Art Talk


CHUAH SHU RUEI is a contemporary artist, who’s art evolves around community projects that are participatory. She sees the process of interaction with the stakeholders of the various projects as part of the art creation process. The participants are encouraged to make their own decision in the art-making process, a democratic process where the artist is the catalyst and recorder. She has called this exhibition ROJAK AESTHETICS.
I was fortunate to partake in this rather different approach to art. Members of The Arts and Crafts Guild, KL & Selangor (ACG), we were approached by the artist to be a part of her up-coming art installation, to make toys with a Malaysian identity and one that we would want to leave as a legacy to our children, the next generation. She said, it could be anything from traditional toys like ‘masak-masak set’ to modern day Totoro, a popular Japanese cartoon character.
This project was aptly named “Toys for MY Children”, a play on the letters MY which is the country code for Malaysia.

Kids from the home participating in art and crafting workshops run by the artist and crafters.

In a period of 3 months the crafters from ACG had many online discussions, exchange of opinions and growth in the understanding of this level of art generation.  ACG members and the artists herself volunteered their time and skill, teaching and guiding children from Hiichiikok Foundation  Home for Children Care to develop their own toys too. Toys from both ACG and the kids are up for sale (100% proceeds to the home). Social media was used to communicate and link the crafters that were involved in the project and also as a means of documenting its journey.         

Finally, on 19 January, 2019 all of the artist’s projects came together for the official opening of Rimbun Dahan Residency Exhibition 2019, a two-artist exhibition – Chuah Shu Ruei (Rojak Aesthetics) and Wong Xiang Yi (You Belong to Night). Both participated in the residency programme, creating art works, culminating in this exhibition.

Making our way down to the Rimbun Dahan’s Underground Gallery.
For ROJAK AESTHETICS, the artist writes “The installation placements convey the ways that these different projects overlap, interrelate and form a holistic art experience.  They all share a theme of multiculturalism, diversity, interrelation and peripheral realities and voices

Her projects -

Toys for MY Children”        
The toys are laid out in a playroom setting. Visitors are encouraged to ‘interact’ and ‘play’ with the toys and re-arrange them so that the display is dynamic, as it changes with each participation. In the foreground are framed drawings make by the kids and animal figurines moulded by them using air-dried clay.

“Resipi Rakyat”

Preparation for this installation started with the artist’s call out though social media a few weeks before, for readers to list the types of spices that they cook with each day; then another call for candles and borrowed bowls that we use daily and finally, fresh flowers.

The 2-part installation was put together first, in the gallery where bowls with various spices (suggested during the call out) were arranged in a circle. Then to start off the evening, visitors were asked to pick up a bowl of spice and bring it up to the space where a large iron pan sits on some blocks, decorated with flowers and gently heated by the visitor’s candles.

Then visitors are asked to sprinkle some spices of their choice onto the pan, while the artist stirs it with a long stick of cinnamon bark. Very soon, aroma of the mixed spices filled the air and the olfactory senses, symbolic of people (rakyat) coming together to create a ‘recipe’ for our future, inspired by the historic GE-14. Change, ie spice is in the air!

Once the spices cool down, it is bottled into small vials and visitors are to bring it back to their kitchen and cook with it. Then report back to the artist as to the final result, ‘taste’ of the mixed spice.

“Dunia-Kalibutan-le Monde”

Between 2017-2018, the artist started this paper collage as a community art form, “collectively made”, “collectively possessed” and “linked as a community through making this artwork together” during her residencies in Reunion Island and Cebu and at Pit Stop Community café in Kuala Lumpur.

Paper sculptures and projection of images create a compelling installation.
The artist further elaborates – “A collaborative installation bringing people of different backgrounds together as a community, and reflecting on how we resolve, create, negotiate, and share the space of our overlapping individual worlds in relation to each other, within the context of a multicultural Malaysia
“Dunia (JungleGarden)”

This is a part of the ‘Dunia’ installation series.  It was designed for the tropics where the sun shines in varying degrees, thus interacting with the installation as time passes. As it shifts and reflects, it represents many perspectives.

Walking through the ‘Jungle Garden’ of translucent panels with Malay and Chinese motifs embedded.

In the other half of the gallery, artist WONG XIANG YI works with ink on silk. She majored in ink painting - learning and influenced by both traditional and contemporary Chinese ink painting, including the Japanese style of ink painting (Nihonga) and keeps abreast with up-coming ink painting trends.

“Water Serpent”  Pigment on Gold Paper, 2018

In her one year of residency at Rimbun Dahan, surrounded by nature, she felt a deep closeness with her environment, making her re-examine the relationship between Man and Nature and between herself and her art work, experimenting with various materials such as silver and gold leaf.

“Murmur”   Ink and pigment on silk, 2019

“Psst Psst”  Ink and Pigment on canvas,  2018
“Transparency and sensitivity of the ink allow a closeness to the image and the feeling that  I want to portray.”  Wong Xiang Yi, YOU BELONG TO NIGHT.
These exhibitions end on 3 February 2019.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely the current opinions of the author and should not be construed to reflect the opinions, policies or positions of any entity other than the author's.